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Microsoft profits from cloud services

April 25, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cloud Computing, Computers, Microsoft, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Microsoft has announced a increase in it’s profits- grown by increased use of cloud services.

Microsoft profits from cloud servicesMicrosoft earnings were buoyed by new CEO Satya Nadella’s cloud vision as these earnings are the first Microsoft has released with new chief executive in charge.

Microsoft reported net profits of £3.37 billion in the first quarter of 2014- which was better than finance markets had estimated.

The software maker’s efforts to move further into cloud computing – a move championed by new chief executive Satya Nadella – seem to be paying off.

Azure, a cloud computing product, saw revenue grow 150%, Microsoft.

The company also said it added 1 million users to its subscription-based Office programme for personal users.

Microsoft sold in 2 million Xbox consoles, including 1.2 million Xbox Ones during the period.

“We are making good progress in our consumer services like Bing and Office 365 Home, and our commercial customers continue to embrace our cloud solutions,” said chief executive Satya Nadella, who replaced Steve Ballmer in February.

However, Microsoft was hurt by declining personal computer sales, as users continue to shift to other technologies.

Overall, profits declined by 6.5% compared to the same period last year.

Microsoft shares rose close to 3% in after-hours trading.

Black market for stolen smartphones grows

April 22, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: mobile phones, smart phones, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

A black market of shops and traders willing to deal in stolen smartphones has been exposed.

Black market for stolen smartphones growsMore than 30,000 phones have been stolen in London alone in 2014.

They were then all blocked or reported stolen to the networks

All the phones used had ‘find-my-phone’ style blocks activated, and in theory their IMEI numbers mean they are not useable once reported stolen.

But it is simple it was to get around such features – using only a laptop.

By giving a device a new IMEI number – effectively changing the phone’s fingerprint – it means that the phone could be used as normal again.

And restoring the phone’s default software removes “find-my-phone” protection.

In just a few mouse clicks and the phone is turned from a paperweight back to a useable device again.

Over the past 12 months:

  • 30,430 phones taken in thefts – down 12% on previous year
  • 13,724 phones taken in robberies
  • Equivalent to 80 phones a day being taken
  • More than half of all the thefts on the Tube are of mobile phones

Source: Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police

A phone stolen this morning could be back on the streets by this afternoon, packaged up as a second hand legitimate phone.

A fundamental redesign of smartphones to place the IMEI number on a ‘read-only’ part of the device would prevent this. But Mr Roughley said manufacturers have been reluctant to do this.

So beware you so called smart phone- isn’t that clever if it is lost or stolen.

Police warn on cyber crime threats

April 18, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Hackers, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Only three out of 43 police forces in England and Wales have a comprehensive plan to deal with a large scale cyber attack, new research has found.

Police warn on cyber crime threatsHer Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) warned only Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and West Midlands had sufficient plans in place.

It also found only 2% of police staff across 37 forces had been trained on investigating cybercrime.

The report examined how prepared police are for a series of national threats.

Last year, the government identified five threats as priorities for police to prepare for. These are:

  • Terrorism
  • Civil emergencies
  • Organised crime
  • Public order threats
  • Large-scale cyber-attacks

As part of its Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR), the Home Office called for a nationally required policing response to counter each of the threats.

The report is the first in a series of inspections looking at how individual forces have responded to the guidelines.

HMIC inspectors said they were “struck by how incomplete the police service’s understanding of the national threats was” and that more needs to be done “collectively by all forces”.

The report called for “much greater attention” from police leaders.

“The capacity and capability of the police to respond to national threats is stronger in some areas than others – with the police response to the cyber-threat being the least well developed,” HMIC’s Stephen Otter said.

Police plans to deal with counter-terrorism, public order, civil emergencies and organised crime were in “stark contrast” with the capabilities for cyber-related threats.

Inspectors found the ability to deal with cyber-threats remains “largely absent” in some forces and that some senior officers across England and Wales are still “unsure of what constituted a large-scale cyber-incident”.

They found forces were “silent” when it came to preventing cybercrime and protecting people from the harm it causes, despite the fact it is “fast becoming a dominant method in the perpetration of crime.

“The police must be able to operate very soon just as well in cyberspace as they do on the street,” the report said.

According to the government’s definition, a large-scale cyber-incident could be “a criminal attack on a financial institution to gather data or money” or an “aggregated threat where many people or businesses across the UK are targeted”.

It also includes “the response to a failure of technology on which communities depend and which may also be considered a civil emergency”.

Basically- despite cybercrime costing the UK ecomony billions of Pounds, our plods are light years from being able to cope- let alone help us.

Moral of the story is make sure that you are as secure as you can be- because the state isn’t capable of nannying you.

Passwords- how to set and remember them

April 15, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

With the heightened risk of password hacking Search Clinic thought that it is a good time to refresh your memory on how to set- and remember your secure passwords.

Passwords- how to set and remember themDr Search of the Search Clinic visited the Cheltenham Science Festival a few years ago and attended a lecture by Toby of GCHQ on security in the computer age and posted a post at: top common passwords.

Your starter for ten is to make sure that you don’t use any of them. If you do- then you are already in trouble.

Changing passwords is something many people avoid at all costs- because they fear they will forget the new password.

However, you can make something memorable by simply using the power of association and location. In order to remember a string of online passwords, all you have to do is associate each individual letter and number with a known or fixed item, calling on your imagination throughout.

The more you stimulate and use your imagination, the more connections you will be able to make, and the more you will be able to memorise.

Memory expert Tony Buzan gives tips on how to remember new ones, which should be a long jumble of randomly generated letters and numbers.

No pet’s names- Hackers can find out a lot about you from social media

No dictionary words- Hackers can precalculate the encrypted forms of whole dictionaries and easily reverse engineer your password.

Mix unusual characters- Try a word or phrase where characters are substituted -Whyd03s1talw&ysr*in?

Have multiple passwords- If hackers compromise one system, they won’t be able to access other accounts.

Keep them safely- Don’t write them down – use a secure password vault on your phone. If you must worte them down label the file someother OTHER than passwords.

Tom from GCHQ suggested using a combination of the above, by using multiple words and numbers- with a few symbols thrown in for good measure:

wh1te-rabbt)*m0nth

Good Luck- and safe browsing.

Heartbleed bug- what you need to know

April 11, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

A major security flaw at the heart of the internet may have been exposing users’ personal information and passwords to hackers for the past two years.

Heartbleed bug- what you need to knowThe Heartbleed bug exists in a piece of open source software called OpenSSL which is designed to encrypt communications between a user’s computer and a web server, a sort of secret handshake at the beginning of a secure conversation.

It was dubbed Heartbleed because it affects an extension to SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) which engineers dubbed Heartbeat.

It is one of the most widely used encryption tools on the internet, believed to be deployed by roughly two-thirds of all websites. If you see a little padlock symbol in your browser then it is likely that you are using SSL.

Half a million sites are thought to have been affected.

In his blog chief technology officer of Co3 Systems Bruce Schneier said: “The Heartbleed bug allows anyone to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the name and passwords of the users and the actual content,” he said.

“This allows attackers to eavesdrop communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users,” he added.

The bug is so serious it has its own website Heartbleed.com which outlines all aspects of the problem.

Some security experts are saying that it would be prudent to change your passwords- although there is a degree of confusion as to when and if this needs to be done.

Some point out that there will be plenty of smaller sites that haven’t yet dealt with the issue and with these a password reset could do more harm than good, revealing both old and new passwords to any would-be attacker.

But now the bug is widely known even smaller sites will issue patches soon so most people should probably start thinking about resetting their passwords.

The exploit was not related to weak passwords but now there are calls for a mass reset of existing ones, many are reiterating the need to make sure they are as secure as possible.

There are half a million websites believed to be vulnerable so too many to list but there is a glut of new sites offering users the chance to check whether the online haunts they use regularly are affected.

The bad news, according to a blog from security firm Kaspersky is that “exploiting Heartbleed leaves no traces so there is no definitive way to tell if the server was hacked and what kind of data was stolen”.

Security experts say that they are starting to see evidence that hacker groups are conducting automated scans of the internet in search of web servers using OpenSSL.

And Kaspersky said that it had uncovered evidence that groups believed to be involved in state-sponsored cyber-espionage were running such scans shortly after news of the bug broke.

Search Clinic will soon post a blog on how to set and remember passwords- so please subscribe to the Search Clinic newsfeed.

New Twitter popularity chart launched

March 31, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, internet, Search Clinic, Social Media, Twitter, Uncategorized

The music Billboard organisation has announced a new set of music charts based on Twitter data.
New Twitter popularity chart launchedWorking with the social media platform, the Billboard Twitter Real-Time Charts will rank tracks and artists based on Twitter traffic.

Trends will be ranked in real-time over extended periods of time to track the longevity of successful songs and artists’ popularity.

The charts will also highlight the most talked about and shared tracks by new and upcoming acts.

The Twitter Real-Time Charts are set to launch in America over the next fortnight.

Bob Moczydlowsky, Twitter’s head of music, said: “When artists share songs and engage with their audience on Twitter, the buzz they create will now be visible to fans, other musicians and industry decision makers in real-time.”

Katy Perry is currently the most followed musician of Twitter with 51.8 million followers.

Official accounts of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake are also in the top 10 most followed users on the site.

Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, which is based on radio play, streaming online, and sales, was recently expanded to include Spotify and YouTube streams.

They also launched an artist chart called Social 50 in 2010, which collects data from social media.

The new chart will be available on Billboard.com and will be shared on their Twitter account @billboard.

Dangers of constantly on wifi smartphone apps

March 28, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apps, Cyber Security, data security, Hackers, mobile phones, Personal Security, Search Clinic, smart phones, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, WiFi

The dangers of constantly keeping your smartphone’s always on has been revealed.

Dangers of constantly on wifi smartphone appsMany smartphone users leave the wireless option constantly turned on on their smartphone. That means the phones are constantly looking for a network to join – including previously used networks.

Once the user has joined a disguised wifi network, the rogue operator can then steal any information that the user enters while on that network – including email passwords, Facebook account information, and even banking details.

This is also why smartphones and other devices that use wireless technology – such as Oyster cards using RFID (radio frequency identification) or bank cards with chips – can betray their users.

Mr Wilkinson – who began developing the Snoopy software three years ago as a side-project – gave the BBC a preview of the technology ahead of its release.

Pulling out a laptop from his bag, Mr Wilkinson opened the Snoopy programme – and immediately pulled up the smartphone information of hundreds of Black Hat conference attendees.

With just a few keystrokes, he showed that an attendee sitting in the back right corner of the keynote speech probably lived in a specific neighbourhood in Singapore. The software even provided a streetview photo of the smartphone user’s presumed address.
DJI phantom SensePost has used the Snoopy software attached to cheap commercial drones like DJI’s Phantom

Drones- not just flying cameras:

  •     Drones are controlled either autonomously by on-board computers, or by remote control
  •     They are used in situations where manned flight is considered too dangerous or difficult
  •     Also increasingly used for policing and fire-fighting, security work, and for filming

For instance, the Snoopy software has been ground-based until now, operating primarily on computers, smartphones with Linux installed on them, and on open-source small computers like the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black.

But when attached to a drone, it can quickly cover large areas.

“You can also fly out of audio-visual range – so you can’t see or hear it, meaning you can bypass physical security – men with guns, that sort of thing,” he says.

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which an authoritarian regime could fly the drone over an anti-government protest and collect the smartphone data of every protester and use the data to figure out the identities of everyone in attendance.

Mr Wilkinson says that this is why he has become fascinated with our “digital terrestrial footprint” – and the way our devices can betray us.

He says he wants to “talk about this to bring awareness” of the security risks posed by such simple technologies to users.

His advice? Turn off the wireless network on your phone until you absolutely need to use it.

Microsoft and Google clash over smartphone apps

April 18, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apps, Customer Service, Google, Microsoft, Mobile Marketing, smart phones, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Microsoft has accused Google of pushing Android handset makers to use its apps like YouTube and Maps.
Microsoft and Google clash over smartphone apps
Along with Oracle, Nokia and 14 other tech firms, Microsoft has filed a complaint with the European Commission.

The group, known as FairSearch, argues that Google is abusing its dominance of the mobile market.

“We are asking the commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel for FairSearch.

“Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system,” he added.

Android is now the dominant mobile operating system, accounting for 70% of the market, according to research firm Gartner.

The complaint describes Google’s Android operating system as a “trojan horse”, offered to device makers for free. In return they are “required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone,” the complaint reads.

Google is also under fire for its common user privacy policy which groups 60 sets of rules into one and allows the company to track users more closely.

Last week six European data protection agencies, including the UK and France, threatened legal action if Google did not make changes to its policy.

In October a European Commission working party said its privacy policy did not meet Commission standards on data protection.

It gave Google four months to comply with its recommendation. Google maintains that the new policy “respects European law”.

Microsoft itself is no stranger to EC criticism- in March it was fined £484 million for failing to promote a range of web browsers in its Windows 7 operating system.

Sky email system customer complaints rocket

April 16, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Email, Google, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized, Yahoo

Many of Sky’s email customers are being deluged with thousands of old and deleted messages as the company switches email providers.Sky email system customer complaints rocketIn recent weeks Sky has stopped using Google to provide email services in favour of Yahoo.

But the change has caused trouble as many customers are reporting that formerly deleted messages have been delivered again and again.

Some have spent hours clearing the messages out of overflowing inboxes.

Discussion forums on Sky’s support site have been filling up with messages from disgruntled customers complaining about the switch. The company, which has more than four million UK broadband customers recently changed from Google to Yahoo.

The switch has seemingly resurrected many messages users formerly deleted with some reporting that they had to go through thousands of messages before deleting them for a second time. Some unlucky customers had to suffer thousands of deleted messages being re-delivered several times.

Many others said the switch had wiped out email settings, deleted aliases and re-set filters. Customers called on Sky to do a better job of responding to complaints and explaining why old messages were turning up.

On its support site, Sky acknowledged the problems the changeover had caused.

It said it was aware of the issue and had “an ongoing investigation and are working to resolve it”. It pledged to provide an update about its efforts to fix the problem.

It said the problem emerged during migration as it was copying all customer emails to Yahoo’s mail servers. The issue should recede as mail services were synchronised, it said.

Digital revolution left Japanese electronic giants behind

April 11, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Customer Service, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Japan’s electronic giants once ruled the world. Sony, Panasonic, Sharp were household names.
Digital revolution left Japanese electronic giants behind
Now those same companies are in deep trouble, losing billions of Pounds a year. How have the mighty Japanese companies fallen so low?

Sony may make a small profit this year, its first since 2008. Panasonic (formerly Matsushita) is expected to post a £6 billion loss this year. Sharp, which is much smaller, is losing money so fast it will not survive another year without a major infusion of cash.

The Japanese giants, built their empires on making complex electrical machines – colour televisions, radios, cassette players, refrigerators and washing machines.

Yes, they contained electronic components, but they were basically mechanical devices. Then came the digital revolution- and the world changed.

The Sony Walkman is a classic example. it has no software in it. It is purely mechanical. Today you need to have software business models that are completely different.

The digital revolution not only changed the way electronic devices work, they changed the way they are made.

The whole manufacturing model shifted as companies moved production to low-cost countries. That has put huge downward pressure on profit margins for Japanese manufacturers.

Apple makes at least 50% profit margins on iPads and iPhones. People say iPhones are made in China, but maybe only 3% of the value of an iPhone stays in China. Quite a bit of the value actually transfers to the UK- where ARM makes the high value chips without which the boxes would be inert.

It is no longer possible to make profits today just by manufacturing – you have to do a lot more.

Just look at the car manufacturers- they have far more electronics in them than just mechanical engines. If you compare the under the bonner experience today with twenty years ago, it’s amazing the difference.

And if you car does breaksdown- twenty years ago a socket set, hammer and screwdriver could fix it. Now you need to plug a laptop into the car to diagnose the issues.

Times- they are achanging.